Budapest with its Tabakgasse synagogue
Budapest is a city for architecture lovers because each building is different, at least in the downtown. There is no way to keep our eyes down, there are such interesting works to keep them up every second.
It was our first time and we stayed 3,5 days before to flight to Prague with its Theresienstadt concentration camp, before to tell you more, let’s start by the beginning, at the airport.
The first thing, when we arrived, was to take some cash, well, after to take our luggage of course. Wrong action because the ATM is not a bank company one but a change company one called Euronet ATM taxing us a high fee, we withdrawn 64000 forint = 200 euros + 19
euros of fees !!! Shame on you !!!! To go to the downtown, there are 2 choices:
- The bus 100E Airport Express directly to the city centre. This option is expensive if after we had to take another public transport to reach our hotel
- Or the bus 200E Airport directly to the first closer metro which is the blue line number 3. This one is cheaper comparing to the first option but it takes a little longer to reach the downtown
It doesn’t matter which one we choose, to buy the ticket, we can buy it outside, just at the bus stop or inside the airport at the metro-bus information stand. We bought it at the stand (if you want to do the same, you will spot it easily); the guy gave us 2 tickets, one for the airport bus and one for the metro called “transfer ticket”. To take the bus, both the 100E and the 200E, exit the airport and go to the right, it is just at few steps.
Why we took the bus 200E because to reach our hotel Ibis Styles Budapest City (soroksári út 12), we had to take the blue line metro so it was more convenient for us than the 100E. We just sit on the bus until the last stop then to take the metro, we just followed the indication panel. When we reached our metro stop (corvin-negyed), instead to walk, we took the tramway, it is just one stop (ferenc körút). Just a quick note, if you take a map, you will see that the tramway stop “boráros tér” is the best stop but not, we got down here the first time and because of how the streets are designed, it was not easy to reach the hotel.
How the public transport (metro, bus and tramway) works ? It is a simple question that needs a simple answer but searching in internet, no way to find a very clear answer. If most of the other countries like France, Spain, etc. when we use a ticket metro, with the same ticket, we can take the bus and tramway to reach our destination. Well in Budapest, there are 2 basic options, the single ticket and the transfer ticket:
- The single ticket is to do only 1 trip by metro, bus or tramway, meaning that if we will take the metro + the tramway, in total, it is 2 tickets
- The transfer ticket is to do only 1 change during your trip, meaning that if we will take the metro + the tramway, in total, it is 1 ticket. And if we will need to do 2 changes, we will need 2 tickets (1 single + 1 transfer)
There are other options cheaper depending how often the public transport will be used. To buy, we went to the ticket machine and selecting the English language, it was easy to follow the indication. The bus/tramway driver can sell only single tickets and it is a little expensive than the machine.
Before to come here, I didn’t know that the name was the union of 2 names, Buda (hill, left side) and Pest (flat, right side) separated by the river Danube, at least now I know and you too.
Here start our adventure, from the hotel, we walked until the Tabakgasse Synagogue, also known as Great Synagogue by taking the “ráday u” street with plenty of places to eat (a lot of vietnamese and kebab) until the end then the big main street is leading us directly to our goal.
There was not a lot of queue around 18h. The price includes a free tour of 30 minutes explaining in your own language (if it exists) the place. Following a quick resume, this synagogue was built by Jews that would like to be more “integrated” in the Hungarian culture so the building owns a mix of Jew and Christian architectures. In the courtyard, there is a cemetery, something very unique and created exceptionally due to the World War 2. In the backyard, because of the donation of the famous actor Tonny Curtis, a silver tree was made as memorial for the victims, in which, a name is graved on each sheet. And just beside it, there is commemorative tomb with names of the people who helped Jews during this very bad period.
The guide told us that if we want to see a “real” synagogue, just at few meters there is one. Both are located in the Jewish quarter and this area, it is full of bars and restaurants. It is an area to have fun where we found most of the street foods, particularly on the “kazinczy” and “király” streets and the gozsdu courtyard.
The next 3 days, we walked a lot but also we bought the “24-hour Budapest-travel card” allowing us to take in an unlimitedaccess the public transport (metro, bus including the 200E Airport, tramway and boat), there is no need to validate it. This card is not the same as the “Budapest Card for 24 hours” (much more expensive) that includes the same thing + free entrances in some museums/places and some discounts.
Taking the boat public transport was nice and pleasant. From our hotel, there are different boats heading north to the downtown where it is located the parliament building for instance. All go there so it doesn’t matter which one but if we wanted to go until the last stop, we needed to check the number before to board (the number and the direction are showed on the boat, in our case, we downloaded a map on the official website to make it easier). If you want to use it and you don’t have the 24h pass, take note that you have to buy a single boat ticket (not valid the single metro ticket) at the ticket machine in the metro/train station.
The other good things from our hotel, there are 3 useful tramways very near by, the number 2, 4 and 6. The number 2 runs along the river in the Pest side until the main centre where the “shoes on the Danube bank” monument is located for example. The number 4 and 6, in one way, both go to the metro blue line 3 (the airport metro line) and in the opposite way, the 4 allows to reach the tramway 41 and the 6, the tramway 19 and 41. Both (19 and 41) run along the river in the Buda side until the Fisherman's Bastion for instance.
- Hungarian Parliament Building is not a must place to do as people may say but since it is located in the downtown, our feet lead us to it, we just watched from the outside. Around this area, there are a lot of shops and restaurants, it is very pleasant to walk in the night and to see the Buda side with its lighted important buildings and bridges. The night has more a familial and romantic ambiance comparing to the Jew area which is more for “fun”.
- Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial spot to remember about those Jew people shoot by the German army then their bodies were threw in the river. Very close to the parliament so the best option is to use our feet.
- The metro line 1. The first line of the city with its original design. We were recommended by a Hungarian girl we met in a thermal bath since this line is different and conserving the original concept. I will say nothing special, every station of this line is the same so seeing one it was enough but we stayed until the széchenyi fürdő stop so we could get off directly into the park of the city.
- Városliget garden (city park) is quite nice, a good place to hide from the summer heat of August sitting in the shadow. The Vajdahunyad Castle, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, the zoo, a lake where people can rent a boat and the Millenniumi emlékmű square, also known as Heroes square, paying tribute to the leaders of the 7 tribes of Hungary can be found here.
- Andrássy út avenue is one of the 3 works declared as world heritage by UNESCO (the 2 others are the Banks of the Danube and the Buda Castle Quarter). This avenue connects the main centre toward the city park. The beginning is like any other famous avenues like the Champs Elysées in Paris, more closer we are to the city park, shops and restaurants are fewer and replaced by mansions. In this avenue, there are the Hungarian State Opera (unfortunately in renovation) and the Terror house (about the cruelty during the war). Personnally, it was not worth to walk, if we knew it, we would take the bus to avoid being tired.
- Sasz-Chevra ortodox synagogue is the other synagogue that was suggested by our guide when we visited the Great Synagogue, built totally according to the Jew architecture. It is opened from 10am to 18pm except Friday until 15pm and it is closed on Sunday. The visit lasted us about 10 minutes since there is only 1 space to discover.The best option to reach it is to get down at the astoria stop by taking either the metro red line 2, the tramway 47, 48 or 49.
- Szabadság tér garden (liberty park) is smaller than the city park but it is much closer to the parliament so a really nice place to do a break meanwhile we visited the downtown.
- Irgalmasok Veli Bej thermal bath (árpád fejedelem útja 7) is where we went to have a nice morning thermal bath, out of the tourist area, the place opens from 6am to 12pm. Smaller than the famous ones like the Széchenyi and Gellért thermal baths and since it is not included in the Budapest’s card as free, very few people and most are Hungarians. The main bath conserves the original architecture but it has been renovated, the different waters are clean. There are also a jacuzzi, a sauna and a thermal. The place offers also a massage session (not included in the price) and we booked it directly there. In some way, since we went on Thursday (not during the weekend), the place was not crowdy with local people. We stayed until closure and since we got hungry, we found a local place just in front of the tramway station called Nagyi ebédlöje (frankel leó út 36), all cooked in advance but good home meal. To go there, the tramway number 41 or 19 and get down at the komjádi béla utca stop then go behind the building in front of you and keep walking a little more along its wall.
- Buda castle, from the top, there is a nice view on the city but the best is at the fisherman’s bastion, most people went there for the sunset (including us) so there were very few people. Unfortunately, the area of the castle was not free to go because every year, on August, 20th, the folk arts’s festival starts and it is celebrated in this area so since we didn’twant to pay the entrance, it was not possible to visit this free area. To not spend too much effort, we bought the ticket for the funicular to go up, a good option for lazy guys like us. There is also a panoramic view to the other Buda sidethen we walked until the bastion because it is quite close. The best option to reach the Buda castle, take the bus number 16 and get down at the palota út gyorslift stop, just in front of it.
- Fisherman's bastion is full of people watching the sunset so it was not easy to find a nice place to sit on the free section of the wall of thebastion but at the end, with a little patience and luck, we got a space. The best spot is on the restaurant section of the wall, just in front of the parliament and just on the corner to see the sun going down but we didn’t want to pay an expensive drink just for that. It was nice to see little by little how the buildings and bridges get lighted. The best option to reach the bastion, take the bus number 16 and get down at the szentháromság tér stop, just in front of it.
- Holocaust Memorial Center is a museum about the holocaust, very interesting with videos in Hungarian language with English subtitle and many pictures with its description and some objects owned by the victims. There is also a synagogue inside.The best option to reach it, take the metro blue line 3 and get down at thecorvin-negyed stop to walk a little.
After 3,5 days, it was time for us to leave this city and to flight to Prague with its Theresienstadt concentration camp for 3,5 days too. My recommendations for Budapest is to buy the 24h ticket (not the 24h card) if you plan to use a lot the public transport when you arrive to the airport. I always think that the best to go up to a hill, it is to take the public transport so I won’t be tired and to go down, just walk; it will be the case to see the most important sites in the Buda side. About places to eat, I don’t have a particular recommendation since the food I tried was “normal”.